Saturday, February 17, 2018

Quentin J. Schultze (May/June 2003)

Like many of the people who’ve sat for Door interviews over the years, Dr. Quentin J. Schultze is the author of books with really impressive titles and enough colons to keep an army of proctologists in malpractice suits for years:  Communicating for Life: Christian Stewardship in Community and Media (Baker, 2000), Winning Your Kids Back from the Media (InterVarsity, 1994), Redeeming Television: How TV Changes Christians—How Christians Can Change TV (InterVarsity, 1992), Popular Religion (Baker, 1991), and Television: Manna from Hollywood? (Baker, 1986).

He’s co-authored a few (The Best Family Videos: For the Discriminating Viewer; Dancing in the Dark: Youth, Popular Culture and the Electronic Media) and even edited-contributed to one (American Evangelicals and the Mass Media).  Even more impressive, his books have actually been translated into Korean and Indonesian.  More impressive yet, his 1995 video (now CD-ROM) presentation, Internet for Christians, has even been translated into Spanish, German, Japanese, and Finnish.  Heck, we didn’t even know there were any Christians in Finland!

Unlike most of the people who’ve sat for The Door Interview, Dr. Schultze (the “e” is silent) is a professor of Communications at Calvin College in Grand. Rapids, Mich.—you know, the Christian college that recently hosted a concert by the Indigo Girls so that its students could see for themselves that it wasn’t only Christian musicians who made sappy music.  Anyway, when the kind folks at Baker Book House sent us a copy of his latest book, Habits of the High-Tech Heart, we decided to have a look-see at what it was that could inspire him to use so much initial alliteration.  Turns out we didn’t have to look any further than the subtitle: “Living Virtuously in the Information Age.”  Always in need of info on how to live virtuously, we dispatched Arsenio Orteza, one of our most virtue-challenged mastheaders, to the Marriott Hotel in New Orleans, where the good professor was participating in various activities at the National Convention of the National Communication Association.

Over lunch, Dr. Schultze elaborated on a variety of topics related but not limited to computers in general and the Internet in particular—especially their increasing role in our ever-changing world.  In addition to proving himself knowledgable about an astonishingly broad range of topics, he also displayed an energy level that helps account for his ability to fulfill the not-always-complementary roles of teacher, writer, speaker, husband, and father.  Tall, trim, bespectacled, neatly bearded, dapperly gray, and bow-tied, he came off every inch the professor.  He even offered to pick up the lunch tab, but our man in the Big Easy lied and told him we’d cover it.

Naturally, Dr. Schultze has a website, and it’s pretty nifty and informative as those things go.  The URL is, and by all means feel free to tell him you first heard about it here.  Just don’t get him started on the extent to which he was misquoted in the following interview.  With his knowledge of computer technology, he just might concoct a virus and embed it in his response, thus making cyber-meat of your hard drive.

THE DOOR MAGAZINE:  What made you want to study communication?
QUENTIN J. SCHULTZE:  Well, I started out in engineering, but I became increasingly interested in communication problems.

DOOR:  Why?
SCHULTZE:  It was amazing to me that two or more people could somehow share ideas, have a life in common, and love one another.  I mean, animals can’t do it.  So I switched from engineering to communication.

DOOR:  Were you a religious man prior to this time?
SCHULTZE:  I grew up in a nominally Roman Catholic family, but my folks stopped going to church when they got divorced, and by the time I was an undergraduate, I was what I called “a-religious,” kind of an agnostic.  It was my interest in communication that eventually led to my interest in communicating with God.

DOOR:  What was the connection?
SCHULTZE:  I reasoned that if we could communicate with each other, and if there is a God, then maybe we could communicate with God as well.  And if in fact God made us, our communication ability might somehow reflect something about the way God is.

DOOR:  What happened then?
SCHULTZE:  I became a Christian, and very much a catholic Christian in the sense of believing that there is a catholic—or Christian—tradition that includes all the different Christian groups all the way back, which I consider myself part of.  So even though I am a Calvinist, I’m also very much a Christian in the catholic-with-a-small-c sense.

DOOR:  We consider ourselves a magazine-in-the-small-m sense.

DOOR:  So, this Internet thang.  The outlook’s rosy, right?
SCHULTZE:  One of the biggest businesses now in information technology is the backup-saving-of-information business.  One of my former students works in it and tells me that every credit card transaction, every medical record at ever hospital, every government record—all of this has to get backed up somewhere, and there are just a few major companies that have set up places underground or in mountains with all kinds of backup machinery where all this stuff gets saved.

DOOR:  Sounds apocalyptic.
SCHULTZE:  He imagines a kind of nightmare scenario that something’s going to happen, and we’re going to lose a huge amount of this.  It’s like Fahrenheit 451, where they go out and intentionally burn the books—but this may be an accident—and it’s gone!  Frankly, I believe that cyber-terrorism is going to be one of the next great war fronts.

DOOR: Why?
SCHULTZE:  Because it’s going to allow you to do a tremendous amount of damage without having to be in geographic proximity.  From a distance you’ll be able to go in and throw off a schedule for a power plant or something and cause the plant to burn up.

DOOR:  With so many storage media these days—zip disks, CD-Roms—why is backing up files such a challenge?
SCHULTZE:  Any medium that exists is destroyable.  A fire or some other weather-related thing will take care of your CDs.  The whole idea now is to have multiple locations, usually with large hard drives, and you hope that something will prohibit all locations from going down.  But there’s a problem with that kind of thinking.

DOOR:  Which is?
SCHULTZE:  Usually these locations are somehow connected through networks.  So then you have the probability of somebody being able to get into those networks and to go electronically to those locations and cause problems.

DOOR:  Isn’t the Internet itself maintained by only a handful of servers?
SCHULTZE:  Yeah, it’s a small number.

DOOR:  And didn’t several of them recently stop working for an hour?
SCHULTZE:  Yeah, for an hour three or four of them were knocked out, and they don’t know who was responsible.  Everything I read by people who are willing to be honest says that our systems are generally very insecure because we’re trying to link everything to everything else.  The Internet is what produced the biggest amount of insecurity in the systems because once one network is connected to another network, people can start to move through them, and the way that you get your security back is to isolate and create networks that are not connected to other networks, which in a sense defeats the purpose.

DOOR:  Were you yourself in on the first wave of personal computers?
SCHULTZE:  I was in on the second wave.  I wasn’t in on the first wave in the late seventies because the computers were too expensive, and I was a poor academician.  I also thought that the expense alone would keep computers from ever becoming something big.  It wasn’t until the early eighties that I realized these data-processing systems were going to become communication systems.  As someone with a doctorate in communications, I realized I had to start studying, writing about, and critiquing these things, because now what was at stake was not just data processing but the very symbolic fabric of our culture.

DOOR:  If you’d lived at an earlier time, do you think you would’ve written books questioning the dangers of the printing press, say, or Edison’s communication-oriented inventions?
SCHULTZE:  Yes.  Both my historical training and my Calvinist instincts tell me that every advancement in human-communication technology will also diminish the quality of human communication and cause unexpected problems.  If you go back and look at the printing press or at a telegraph, you’ll find that there were parallel problems.

DOOR:  What’s the main difference this time around?
SCHULTZE:  The difference today is that the public rhetoric is so overwhelmingly optimistic.  The ads for the new products and services and the guru columns and the public speeches by the techno gurus all talk about progress.  They rarely talk about regrets, which I think, since we live in a fallen world, deserves equal time.

DOOR:  Would you describe the history of communication technology as one step forward, two steps back?
SCHULTZE:  In the past, the time that it’s taken to develop and distribute new communication technology has provided adequate time for reflection, criticism, and some reconsideration of how to employ the technology.  But now, with digital technology, we’ve reached a pace of innovation where the negative effects are just as robust and widespread as the positive ones, and we have less of a grasp of the negative effects than people generally had with previous technologies.  In 1994, for example, the average consumer knew nothing about the World Wide Web, and now we’ve got about seventy percent of Americans on it.  That adoption rate is spectacular from a marketing standpoint, but from the standpoint of understanding what this all means, we’re lost in the cosmos, to paraphrase Walker Percy.

DOOR:  In your book you express concern that the technological revolution will inevitably drive those who can afford the technology and those who can’t farther and farther apart.  With technology continuously getting cheaper, won’t this divide eventually close?
SCHULTZE:  The idea that newer technologies are necessarily going to be cheaper may not be true.  

DOOR:  Great.
SCHULTZE:  We’re now recognizing the increased costs of updating and upgrading every few years, and the rate at which these technologies become obsolete.  During the late ‘90s, we had a free ride.  There was a lot of money coming in to subsidize these technologies on the basis of dot-coms that would supposedly produce profits.  Most of them didn’t, so the real costs of technologies are just starting to become apparent.  Actually, I see a growing gap between the info-rich and the info-poor, which, incidentally, may be a good thing.

DOOR:  Why?
SCHULTZE:  It may be that to be information-rich in our world is to be wisdom-poor.  So we may be deluding ourselves by assuming that we’re a moor progressive society or that we are a more virtuous people simply because we have access to a lot of information.

DOOR:  American evangelicals were among the quickest to capitalize on television and radio.  Is there something inherent in their mindset that renders them uniquely susceptible to equating virtue with progress?
SCHULTZE:  Because of the emphasis in evangelicalism on the proclamation of the Gospel, new technologies tend to attract these kinds of believers, who think that the technology is the answer, that the right technique will lead you to the result that you want—the salvation of souls or whatever it happens to be.  And that’s a very American way of thinking, too.  So, in a sense, evangelical optimism about technology has greatly shaped American optimism about technology.  In fact, American evangelicals have been behind the development of every new and major communication technology in the United States.  In the 1830s, for example, the Bible-and-tract societies took mass printing and distribution to a new level.  A similar thing happened both in the early years of radio and the early years of satellite TV, with the CBN network and the PTL network, and now it’s TBN and all.

DOOR:  But aren’t evangelicals more the catch-up types nowadays?  By the time Billy Graham started making motion pictures, for instance, Hollywood had already left them in the dust.
SCHULTZE:  The movies were a special case.  The movie houses themselves—being dark, dreary, smoke-infested, and located in ethnic neighborhoods that weren’t very WASP-ish—were seen as evil places.  That slowed down evangelical development in film, though, most evangelicals pounced on the Internet right away and created much more of a religious presence online than any other Christian or non-Christian religious group.

DOOR:  We couldn’t help noticing, by the way, the disproportionate number of quotations in your book from Václav Havel.  Were you aware of him before his emergence on the international stage?
SCHULTZE:  I ran across Václav Havel some time back, I think through his plays, some of which are wonderful testaments to how real communication evaporates in a totalitarian society.

DOOR:  How does real communication evaporate in a totalitarian society?
SCHULTZE:  When we think of a totalitarian society, we think of top-down, hierarchical, control-oriented communication.  And, when you read his plays, you realize he recognized that the communication coming down from on top was laughable and absurd, and that the people were becoming increasingly disingenuous in the whole society as a result.  Then I read his letters to his wife—Letters to Olga—which he wrote in his years in prison, and it occurred to me that it is one of the greatest statements of democratic political philosophy in the 20th century.  So I began reading all of his speeches and everything else, and following his growing political career.  I think he’s a prophetic voice in the contemporary world.

DOOR:  Any other prophetic voices or trends you’d like to give a shout-out to?
SCHULTZE:  During the last ten years, there’s a bunch of books coming out about the importance of the Trinity in our understanding of the Christian faith, and now that theology is starting to influence Christians who write about communication.

DOOR:  How?
SCHULTZE:  That to get a sense of the model of communication, we have to get a sense of the Trinity and what that’s like.  One of the really fine books on that is Colin Gunton’s The One, the Three, and the Many.

DOOR:  We haven’t read that one.  What does it say?
SCHULTZE:  That whenever either diversity or unity in communication becomes too predominant, then you lose communication.  So in the information age I look around and say, “We’ve created our own Babelonian mess, where hardly anybody can communicate with anybody else anymore.  Even though we have common language, we have so many individual vernaculars, versions of reality and truth, and so many different individual experiences that there’s no thread.  So we don’t know what—or how—to share anymore.

DOOR:  Do you think the proliferation of Bible translations is an example of what you’re describing?
SCHULTZE:  Yes.  The Internet makes possible a world where everybody can be their own God, create their own text, their own canon, their own interpretation.  In the seventies we would’ve said, “Roll your own religion.”  So you have all these people creating their own religions online.  Incredible!  And that relates to all the Bible versions, to all the different study versions for all the different markets.  But it also relates to something Rich Mouw once said to me: “Protestants have replaced one pope with many popes.”  The Protestant notion of the priesthood of all believers is becoming the notion of the papacy of all believers because you’ve got your own website and you can publish.

DOOR:  Is there a silver lining to this dark cloud?
SCHULTZE:  I think so.  An interesting thing to me is to see a movement back toward historical interest in Christian liturgy among Protestants, including Evangelicals, who are looking back at the history of Christian liturgy and incorporating elements from the history of the church into “contemporary” church services.

DOOR:  What does this movement have to do with the Internet?
SCHULTZE:  What it has to do with it is that we can use the Internet to find out a lot about the history of liturgy and-or the history of particular saints or whatever if you have the inclination.  Rather than just using the Internet as an extension of your own ego, you can find out plenty about the past and actually learn something.  I think what we’re seeing now in something like the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, which a colleague of mine at Calvin, Harry Plantinga, does.  He’s taking all of the no-longer-copyrighted Christian classics, and he’s putting them all online and making them searchable.  It’s tremendous to have access to this stuff.  So I’m not anti-technology.  I just want to say that the Christian tradition has always said that we have to focus not just on what we can do as people but also on the kinds of people that we are.

DOOR:  You credit American Evangelicals with being the driving force behind our communication technologies.  In your book you mention that pornographers have also been quick to capitalize on the media.
SCHULTZE:  With video in particular.  Pornography really created the demand for the consumer video player.  That’s been well documented.  So, yes, pornography has always been there.  In the case of the Internet, I would say that the quest for God and the quest for sex are probably the two biggest quests that drove the development of the World Wide Web.  There was a time when if you went in the search engines and put in the word “God,” you would get more links than if you put in the word “sex.”  It’s not so now.

DOOR:  So we’ve noticed—er, heard.
SCHULTZE:  There’s a human drive for intimacy that exists in both the realm of God-seeking and sex-seeking, and the Internet became a way for people anonymously to go after both of those.  And there’s still a tremendous amount of God-seeking., for instance, is the highest-trafficked religious website in the world.  It runs over ten million hits a day.

DOOR:  Enough of the silver linings.  Any more dark clouds?
SCHULTZE:  The problem of authorship in a digital age is massive.

DOOR:  In what way?
SCHULTZE:  Anybody can make digital copies of practically anything, change the author, change parts of the original copy.  We’re going to find that we have major problems on our hands in discerning truth, whether it’s a trial and the records that are presented or a book written by someone.  Did they really write the entire book?  Plagiarism of all kinds has become extremely easy.

DOOR:  So has the downloading of copyrighted music files from the Internet.

DOOR:  Do your kids download MP3s?
SCHULTZE:  For a long time, my son downloaded music free and believed, according to copyright—just as if you and I had a book and went to make one copy on a Xerox machine—that it was legal.  I took the contrary position.

DOOR:  Why?
SCHULTZE:  Because we’re taking real serious money away from the people who own the original by making it easy for anybody to quickly make a copy online, with almost no cost or effort involved.  To go to a library and to copy a chapter takes time driving there, it takes time putting money into the thing and everything else.  There are reasons that would drive down costs.  The same thing with making an audio-cassette copy of something.  There are costs built into this, that make it seem to me to be reasonable to have a personal-use clause.  But I didn’t think we could live with that anymore in the digital age without causing serious problems.

DOOR:  What has the response to your book been like?
SCHULTZE:  Phenomenal.  And the funny thing is, usually by the time I finish writing a book, I’m so sick of the doggone thing that I don’t want to talk to anybody about it.  But this time I thought, “You know what?  This topic still grabs me.”  So I’m working on a follow-up.

DOOR:  Wait, let us guess: Habits of the High-Tech Heart 8.0?
SCHULTZE:  Uh, no.  I’m thinking of titling it something like The Habits of Love in the Information Age.  What I want to do is focus on four Christian practices that we should revive in the midst of this information technology that’s all around us.

DOOR:  What are they?
SCHULTZE:  Neighborliness, hospitality, friendship, and leisure.

DOOR:  What do you mean by “neighborliness”?
SCHULTZE:  Neighborliness, in the sense of the Good Samaritan.  No matter how different somebody is from us, we’re there to help them in whatever way we can and to be aware each day of how we can do this.  Sadly, neighborliness has become whoever’s next door to you, yet there’s a deep Christian tradition regarding who your neighbor is.  Saddam Hussein may be our enemy, but he’s our neighbor too.

DOOR:  What about hospitality?
SCHULTZE:  Hospitality means making room for the stranger, the person who’s different.  The monasteries were the champions of hospitality.  Most of the monastic traditions had as part of their code that they would accept anybody who came to the door.

DOOR:  We’ll still accept anyone who comes to The Door, especially if he’s willing to subscribe.
SCHULTZE:  Part of hospitality is willingness to listen.  When I first got to Calvin twenty years ago, I went to the library and looked up the number of books that we had on speech versus the number of books that we had on listening.

DOOR:  What did you discover?
SCHULTZE:  It was like four hundred to ten, which I find very strange because you can make the case that because God first spoke, listening is the first and most important human communicative activity.  So I thought that was interesting, that even in a Christian college we’d be so out of balance.  In a fallen world, where we all want to get our egos going and our websites revved up for action so that everybody can know who we are—

DOOR:  The Door has a website.

DOOR:  Uh, friendship?
SCHULTZE:  By that I mean friendship in the sense of John 15.  A friend is the person who would lay down his life for you, just as God laid down the life of his Son.

DOOR:  And who would also lay down a lot of other things short of life for you.
SCHULTZE:  Everything.  It’s the suffering servant right there.  Giving it all, rather than, as the dot-com ‘90s would’ve had it, acquiring it all.

DOOR:  Leisure?
SCHULTZE:  I was going to call it “Sabbath keeping” because I’m in the Calvinist tradition, but it’s actually been better developed by Catholics than by Protestants, especially recently by Josef Pieper, the German theologian who’s got a book called Leisure Is the Basis of Culture.

DOOR:  It’s also the basis of some really ugly suits.
SCHULTZE:  God himself established the importance of leisure by working six days then taking the next day off to reflect back on and to express gratitude for what was done.  That concept of leisure can reconnect us with a deep part of what cosmic reality is.

DOOR:  Sounds like a book to us.
SCHULTZE:  What I want to do is, in a winsome, positive way, present these four habits of the heart that have this incredible Christian depth and Christian tradition to them, long predating Protestantism, and see if I can’t develop them in an information-age context, so that people say, “Yeah, there’s something there that I want to recapture for my life.”

Friday, February 16, 2018

Maria Muldaur (November/December 1994)

Most people know Maria Muldaur as the woman who sang “Midnight at the Oasis,” a song so flirtatious it made expressions like “Put your camel to bed” seem like aphrodisiacs.  But your average one-hit wonder, she’s not.  In the past twenty years, she’s recorded over a dozen albums, including the award-winning On the Sunny Side (Music For Little People, 1990) and Louisiana Love Call (Black Top, 1992), her well-received return to high-profile recording.  Her new album, Meet Me at Midnite, has just been released, and it, too, percolates with the jazzy sass and rootsy blues that have defined her career ever since her jug-band days in the ‘60s.

Christians may remember Muldaur as part of the late-‘70s rock’n’roll revival that swept Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie, and Van Morrison onto the gospel train.  Her two first-rate gospel albums (1980’s live Gospel Nights and 1982’s There Is a Love), her appearances on The 700 Club, and the story of her dramatic conversion following the auto accident that nearly killed her daughter caught the attention of many.

Then, seemingly overnight, Muldaur’s blip disappeared off the radar screen of not only the Church but the world as well.  Between fly-by-night record deals and the mercurial nature of the club circuit, she found herself low on cash and morale.

Enter the Marin City Church of God—the “funky little black church” that Muldaur has attended for fifteen years.  With the help of their enthusiasm and generosity, she’s continued on her pilgrimage—a pilgrimage she discussed between gigs with The DOOR’s Arsenio Orteza.  She also discussed “air-brushed” Christianity, “white-bread Christianity,” and Jimmy Swaggart—one of whose books she’s actually read.  In fact, the interview went so well that, from now on, all DOOR interviewees will either have to have read a Jimmy Swaggart book or to have made expressions like “Put your camel to bed” seem like aphrodisiacs.

DOOR:  Do you think God was somehow behind the gospel music you and Dylan and other folk-and-blues rock icons were recording in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s?
MULDAUR:  Absolutely.  I think it was in the air.  I mean, it’s kind of a “latter rain,” isn’t it?

DOOR:  Is it?
MULDAUR:  I think so.  My idea of what this is all about has gone through a great evolution since the day I got “born again” at a black church in L.A.  But I think the prophecy that in the last days the Holy Spirit will be poured—how does that go?  Men and women will see visions and dream dreams.  It talks about the gifts of the Spirit being poured on everybody at large, and I think that’s what’s happening, only I think it’s something that goes beyond the narrow definitions of American fundamentalist doctrine.  I’m starting to see that the Second Coming of Christ isn’t going to be a guy in a robe with a beard and sandals with lightning coming out of the sky.

DOOR:  What do you think it’ll be like?
MULDAUR:  There seems to be a natural outcropping of Christ-consciousness popping up all over the place, not just in churches at altar calls.  I think now it’s happening outside the normal definition of modern-day Christianity.  And I think it’s all moving to join together.

DOOR:  What do you mean by “Christ-consciousness”?
MULDAUR:  Well are you familiar with Matthew Fox?

DOOR:  Are we ever!  He’s the disenfranchised Catholic priest.
MULDAUR:  Well, who says you need a franchise?

DOOR:  Well, he’s on the outs with the official church.
MULDAUR:  But so was Jesus, wasn’t He?  Who needs a franchise?  There’s a lot of good food besides McDonald’s, isn’t there?

DOOR:  Burger King’s all right.  But sometimes they’re slow.
MULDAUR:  Uh, have you read any of Matthew Fox?

DOOR:  Us?  Are you kidding?  Of Course we… uh… he did Fox’s Book Of Martyrs, right?
MULDAUR:  About eight or nine years ago, I came across a book of his called Original Blessing, and I was drawn to it.

DOOR:  Why?
MULDAUR:  Well, I got saved in a black church in L.A. after my daughter’s car accident.  And the thing that happened to me—the sudden indwelling of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues and the whole thing—was explained to me in the lingo of modern-day, fundamentalist Christianity.  I consider myself lucky that it happened in a black church and that when I got up here in Marin County, I ended up being drawn to this funky little black church right over the hill from where I live.  I’ve been a member there since about 1980.  It’s a Church of God.

DOOR:  Why do you consider yourself lucky to have signed on there?
MULDAUR:  It’s absolutely worship out of the Bible, but it’s very free.  It’s very much led by the Spirit.  Whoever feels moved can stand up and share something.  And it’s very joyful and very forgiving and very nitty-gritty and down-to-earth.  The pastor is just wonderful.  His sermons are about real, funky, true-life situations.  And the music?  It’s not an award-winning choir or anything, but God!  They really mean it when they sing.  It’s just a really funky, country church with no rigid dogma attached to it.  So I feel lucky that while all this air-brushed Christianity was going on—

DOOR:  “Air-brushed Christianity”?
MULDAUR:  I mean, I was on the Jim and Tammy Bakker show.  But first I was on The 700 Club, which—until recently—I had a lot of respect for.

DOOR:  How recently?
MULDAUR:  Since Pat started getting into politics.  I find some of the things that they’re into alarmingly odious.  I believe, however, that most of their money goes to ministry.  I used to love to go on The 700 Club.  When they were having a fund drive or something, they’d have me answer the ministry phones.  And I loved that more than anything—one-on-one ministering to people over the phone.  They have “Operation Blessing” and all that stuff.  And the people would call and say, “My daughter has cancer, and she’s gotta have an operation, and I need bus fare to Alaska where she lives.”  And “Operation Blessing” would be able to provide that.

DOOR:  So your memories of The 700 Club are mostly happy ones?
MULDAUR:  At least there’s a lot of teaching on the program and lots of direct ministry to people’s needs.  They do solicit money but, as far as I can ascertain, it does go largely to the causes intended.  But I got a weird feeling from the Jim and Tammy show.

DOOR:  Why did you agree to appear?
MULDAUR:  I was told it was another show like The 700 Club, but that they were even more into music.

DOOR:  What’s your assessment of the Bakkers’ show now, with the benefit of hindsight?
MULDAUR:  The couple of times I was on, I found that the people who worked behind the scenes were all really sweet believers.  But there was still something a little creepy.  Something didn’t ring true.  Tammy was always crying.  And they were always crying for money.  I mean, I can’t stand Gene Scott.  To me, Pat Robertson is the best of the lot.  But if he’s trying to mix church and state, that’s where he loses me.  I’m probably going to be excommunicated from whatever Christian circles I’m still accepted in for saying this, but that’s not what ministry is all about.

DOOR:  So what does this have to do with Matthew Fox?
MULDAUR:  Oh. Well, I think the saving grace in my Christian walk has been my being rooted in this very simple, funky church where the belief is simple and direct.  It’s not air-brushed Christianity.  It’s not white-bread Christianity.

DOOR:  Sounds more like rye or pumpernickel.
MULDAUR:  I’ll tell you a beautiful story.  One time I was really struggling financially.  And finally, someone came through with a tour that was going to take place mostly in the Northwest and British Columbia.  It was a pretty good tour, and this was after a really dry spell.  The money promised to be good.  And then, about three weeks before I was supposed to go out, I found out that the guy who had purportedly been putting the tour together had taken all the advance money and put it up his nose—

DOOR:  Uh, some of our readers are literalists.  Could you clarify what “put it up his nose” means?
MULDAUR:  He bought drugs with it.  The promoters were furious.  They thought the money had gone to the performers.  So the tour was canceled.  When a tour is canceled three weeks before it’s supposed to start, the chances of getting any work on the club circuit are virtually nil, because clubs are booked up to a month in advance.  I was devastated.
I went to church that Sunday, and I stood up and said, “I need your prayers because I need a miracle.”  I explained what happened, and they all murmured that they would pray for me.
Later, in the middle of another part of the service, one of the ladies in the choir stood up and said, “Oh, Pastor, can I say something that’s on my heart and mind this morning?”  And he said, “Yeah, Sister Boyd.  Go ahead.”  She said, “Well, I been thinking.  You know, Maria has been such a blessing to us.  And I just think we ought to do more than just pray for her.  I think we should show her where our hearts are and take up a collection for her.”
And I stood up and shouted, “No!”  The last thing I’d meant when I asked for a prayer for a miracle in my finances was for them to dig into their pockets!  But the pastor wouldn’t hear my protest.  And I couldn’t just say, “Oh no.  You guys don’t have the money.”
He wouldn’t let me leave.  He grabbed me when he was greeting people at the end, and he said, “You stand right here!”   And they collected—I’ll never forget—$197.43 in nickels and dimes and little five-dollar checks.  I was in tears!  And I was so moved that they had done that.  It taught me so much about stewardship.  

DOOR:  How?
MULDAUR:  You know the story in the Bible about the lady with the oil?  I never stretched $197 so far in my life.  I wouldn’t even buy a cup of coffee.  And that money lasted.  And I prayed.  And about three weeks later, when the money was almost gone, I got a call from New York from the producers of a play called Pump Boys And Dinettes, wanting to know if I would come and star in their Broadway musical.  And see, no normal club gig would’ve come through in that time.  And all of a sudden, I was making really good money, not funky blues club money.  Anyway, that’s an example of the kind of Christianity that’s in practice at my church.

DOOR:  Uh, about Matthew Fox?
MULDAUR:  His book, Original Blessing, came to my attention, and the name appealed to me: “original blessing” as in contrast to “original sin.”  Fox started out as a Jesuit priest, and in his studies he came upon early Christian mystics, like Meister Eckhart and Julian of Norwich—these ecstatic early saints.

DOOR:  What appealed to you beyond the book’s title?
MULDAUR:  His vision of Christianity.  It’s not based so much on how we’re these miserable, sinning worms that have to grovel, begging and hoping for a little forgiveness from an angry God, but on how we’re born with original blessing, which is life itself.  That’s the supreme gift.  And the whole train of thought was such a positive one.  Just at the point where I was getting disillusioned and starting to see the Jim and Tammy Bakker version of Christianity for what it was, this was a great way to evolve to another level.  That book sort of turned on a light inside of me, and I started reading more things like it, keeping in my Christian walk and not being so afraid of the dogma end of things.
One of the things I liked that Fox says is that God made man to be co-creators with Him, just like the way God told Adam to name the animals.  God made them, but he told Adam, “OK, now you name them.”  That’s an example.
When we open up to the Holy Spirit and become aware that that’s what we’re supposed to be doing, whatever our gifts and callings are, we’re co-creators with God.  That’s kind of the direction I’m moving in.

DOOR:  Did your 700 Club appearances and gospel albums have a negative effect on your career?
MULDAUR:  When I got saved, people called up wanting me to give my testimony.  You know how it is when you’re a new baby Christian.  You want to run around in the middle of the night, ringing bells and telling everybody like Paul Revere, saying, “Jesus is coming!”  So I happily did any article I was asked to do, gave my testimony and, of course, found myself embraced by the “Christian Movement.”  But I found that a lot of my fans—I mean, it happened to Dylan.  He was getting booed when I was giving these interviews, but I didn’t think it would happen to me.

DOOR:  So you got grief from crowds?
MULDAUR:  Nobody booed me, but people read about me and thought, “She’s not just going to come here and sing gospel music, is she?”  And I’ve always done gospel songs, even before I was saved, because I’ve always been moved by the power of gospel music, starting with when I first heard the Staple Singers when I was seventeen.  On my first Warner Brothers albums, I did “Traveling Shoes,” “Just As an Eagle,” and “Keep a Light in My Window.”  And my basic secular show didn’t change much.  Still, there was a time when I think I was being avoided.
You know, an artist can stand up and say she’s been abused by her father and that she used to be into drugs and bestiality and that she evaded her taxes for twenty years, and people will not only come out to see her, they’ll flock to support her.  But God forbid you should mention the “G-word”!  People have such an aversion to it!

DOOR:  What made you start keeping a lower “Christian profile”?
MULDAUR:  Two things.  Number one: I wanted to reassess my definition of “born-again Christian” and did not want to be associated with what was going on with Jimmy Swaggart.
Number two: I thought that if people only have a sensationalistic kind of interest, then I wasn’t going to tell them.

DOOR:  We can understand your not wanting to be associated with Jimmy Swaggart.
MULDAUR:  The thing that got me about what happened to him down in New Orleans was not so much what he did—to me, that was just a sad commentary on his marriage or his inability to express himself normally within his marriage in a healthy, sexual way.  I mean, to have to go and seek that kind of thing, shows how warped he was.  I had nothing but compassion and forgiveness toward him about that.
But what really pissed me off was that months earlier he had written a book called Tough Answers to Tough Questions.  It sold for $20 or something.  And it purported to tell Christians how to have a really strong walk with Jesus.

DOOR:  We haven’t read that one.
MULDAUR:  It actually advised against women joining aerobics groups or ballet classes because the actions of women in leotards on the dance floor might arouse prurient interest on behalf of the viewer.  So I’m thinking, here’s some pudgy housewife in Kansas who finally gets up the nerve to join a little exercise class at the “Y,” and then she goes out, spends 20 bucks on his book, and is told that if she really wants to please God, she won’t [join that class].

DOOR:  It sounds almost pharisaical.
MULDAUR:  Exactly.  And, after all, wasn’t that why Jesus’ ministry pissed the Pharisees off so much?  They’d set themselves up.  From the time God gave Moses the Ten Commandments to the time Jesus was born, over 4,000 laws evolved in Jewish law.  I mean, the Ten Commandments are pretty well fought out.  If we just did that, we’d already have heaven on earth, right?  But no.  Man had to improve on what God sent down.  So by the time Jesus arrived, there was this huge hierarchy of a priesthood standing as the middleman for people who honestly wanted to know how to please God.   You know, “We’ll tell you… and by the way, that’ll be so many shekels.  Change your money at the temple gate, and we’ll interpret what God wants for you.”

DOOR:  When you put it that way, televangelism doesn’t seem so new.
MULDAUR:  What Jesus’ ministry was all about was reestablishing a direct relationship between man and God, about walking around as a living example of how one could enter into sonship with God.  In other words, He was the Son of God, and through the Holy Spirit we could all become children of God again.  And that’s what drives me so crazy about these televangelists and even evangelists who act like that in their own little local pulpits.  They lead honest, seeking, sincere people so far off the mark, and make people think that without the interpretations of somebody as sick as Jimmy Swaggart, they can’t find their way to God.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Os Guinness (July/August 2000)

The last time the Door interviewed Os Guinness, we were still Wittenburg and he was still dark haired. The year was 1985, and, with the Moral Majority in its ascendancy, the time seemed right to play up any connections between England’s most famous and prolific Francis Schaeffer disciple and his stout-brewing relatives. Hence the now legendary Guinness-stout-bottle image on the front, perhaps the only Christian-magazine cover ever blamed by its readers for driving them to drink. Well, times have changed. The Door now appears in color, Os Guinness has gray hair, and Guinness stout has its own web page-- Or something like that--we were a little soused when we logged on.

Some things, on the other hand, remain the same. Os Guinness, for instance, still writes more books in a year than the
Door has subscribers, books with titles such as Fit Bodies, Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think and What to Do About It (Baker), Dining with the Devil: The Megachurch Movement Flirts with Modernity (Baker), and Good Morning, Hangover: Drinking the Devil Under the Table (Thomas Nelson) (actually we’re not sure about that last one, Os Guinness would never publish with Thomas Nelson)--titles that on their own say more than the contents of Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye’s collected gift boxes put together.

His latest book--Time for Truth: Living Free in a World of Lies, Hype, and Spin (Baker)--has just come out, and in it, as in his other books, Guinness speaks with prophetic clarity and concision on a topic of crucial importance, its 125 pages serving to expose the hidden links uniting such disparate postmodern phenomena as the presidency of Bill Clinton, the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, and the autobiography of Jay Leno. He also continues his practice of examining two unsatisfactory approaches to a problem (this time modernism and postmodernism) then proposing a satisfactory Third Way (i.e., the Christian faith).

Only this time the Third Way is not just the Christian faith but (from page fifteen) the “‘faith community/tradition view of truth’--which the Jewish and Christian faiths represent” (emphasis added). Toto, we have a feeling that we’re not just in Evangelicaldom anymore (Wizard of Os reference added). We also have a feeling that you’ll find what Guinness had to say to the Door’s Arsenio Orteza goes way beyond the clicking of one’s heels. And that’s the truth.

THE DOOR MAGAZINE: In the spirit of the title of your latest book, Time for Truth, let’s clear the air right off and establish what your current relationship with the Guinness brewing company is.
GUINNESS: I’m descended from the youngest son of Arthur Guinness, the original brewer, my great-great grandfather.

DOOR: Do you still--how shall we put it--benefit from the relationship?
GUINNESS: No, I don’t benefit. I partake (laughs). People often say that there are three branches of the Guinness family: the Brewing Guinnesses, the Banking Guinnesses, and the Poor Guinnesses--or the Guinnesses for God.

DOOR: People often refer to us as “the Poor Door.” Are the Poor Guinnesses and the Guinnesses for God the same branch?

DOOR: So your branch is itself a “Third Way.”
GUINNESS: Except in this case we’re not the middle line between the brewers and the bankers, who are both exceedingly wealthy. Our part is distinguished for other things.

DOOR: Time for Truth is distinguished in part by its many references to the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. Was it the impetus for the book?
GUINNESS: No. In fact, I didn’t put Clinton in the first draft.

DOOR: Why did you add the Clinton chapter?
GUINNESS: Partly because the manuscript was too short, and partly because people wanted to see the relevance of the scandal.

DOOR: What is the relevance of the scandal?
GUINNESS: I think that the significance of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal was that you had the president--the gatekeeper--showing the influence of postmodernism breaking out at the very highest levels, in the Oval Office.

DOOR: Some have said, in Clinton’s defense, that his is hardly the first administration within which postmodernist thinking has broken out.
GUINNESS: Well, you’ve had many examples of presidential lying, including Richard Nixon.

DOOR: We’ve heard of him.
GUINNESS: But you’ve never had such systematic lying rooted in such explicitly postmodern conditions.

DOOR: What conditions, exactly?
GUINNESS: The psychology of his background as an adult child of an alcoholic, the philosophy of the way he conducted his defense in the impeachment, his saying to Dick Morris, “We shall just have to win then.” It was a very clear example of the will to power.

DOOR: The “will to power”?
GUINNESS: He who has the most dream-team lawyers, the best attack dogs, the most ingenious spin-meisters wins the day. In other words, both his psychology and his tactics were more explicitly postmodern and of a very different order of seriousness from, say, previous presidential lies.

DOOR: Do you think that his scandal has stigmatized explicit postmodernism or legitimized it?
GUINNESS: I think that the future will lie somewhere between those two.

DOOR: Another Third Way?
GUINNESS: There was no clear moral response during the impeachment, and what you see in the polls now is a kind of uneasiness over what happened but far from a clear conviction. I’m no more persuaded by the uneasiness of the public now than I was with the uneasiness of its acceptance of what he was doing a year ago.

DOOR: Speaking of critical-legal studies and dream-team lawyers, where does the O.J. Simpson trial fit into this discussion?
GUINNESS: Johnny Cochran’s brilliance was that he turned the O.J. trial into a national referendum on racism and clearly won the power battle over Marcia Clark and the others in the process. In the same way, David Kendall and the president’s lawyers turned the impeachment into a national referendum on America’s broadmindedness about sex and got it off the substantive points and left the House managers flailing around about details.

DOOR: Speaking of sex, have you noticed Joe Bob Briggs on our masthead?

DOOR: Never mind. You were talking about Johnny Cochran and David Kendall.
GUINNESS: They were both brilliant tactically but incredibly dangerous substantively in terms of the outcome.

DOOR: What’s to be done?
GUINNESS: I think that there are two grounds of hope. One is that when you get that pragmatic and that super-realistic, you become counter productive.

DOOR: -----
GUINNESS: In other words, when everything is manipulation and image and deception, what happens is, no one trusts anything, and, far from being realistic, it becomes self-defeating. These people defeat themselves. They get tripped up in their own machinations.

DOOR: What if they don’t?
GUINNESS: Well, you can see in history that you don’t counter postmodern bits of power with counter bits of power. You counter it with character and integrity and moral conscience.

DOOR: Um, we’ve heard of those too.
GUINNESS: You can see this, say, the story of William Wilberforce.

DOOR: The eighteenth-century British Evangelical Christian statesman and reformer best known for fighting to abolish slavery?
GUINNESS: Yes. He and his fellow members of Parliament never numbered more than thirty at the outside. But slowly, because they broke ranks with partisanship, voted against their party when the party was wrong, and refused to be corrupted, their characters were seen to be what they were. And over thirty, forty, fifty years, they became the moral conscience of Britain and then of Europe.

DOOR: Is there now, or has there ever been, an American Wilberforce?
GUINNESS: Not exactly. In fact, you need one today.

DOOR: Is there no one, say, in the Christian Right who could fill his shoes?
GUINNESS: I would argue that the Christian Right has served us badly for twenty-five years.

DOOR: In what ways?
GUINNESS: Well, you could itemize about ten fundamental flaws, but for me one of the earliest and deepest is their lack of a public philosophy--of a common vision for the common good--without which their every thrust into the public square is perceived as threatening and subversive. For instance, one journalist said to me in the ’80s, “Evangelicals talk of ‘justice,’ but they sound like ‘just us.’” That’s the problem with much of the Christian Right.

DOOR: Is that why in Time for Truth you identify the Third Way as “that which the Jewish and Christian faiths represent,” instead of merely that which the Christian faith represents?
GUINNESS: Yes. I was very aware when I wrote Time for Truth that when you come to truth, Jews and Christians are absolutely one. We as Christians often say--from the New Testament--that “God is love”; the Jews, from the Old Testament--the Hebrew scriptures--would say “God is truth.” And, of course, Christians would include the Old Testament as well as the New and likewise have this high stress on truth. Because Jews and Christians have an incredible stake in truth and truthfulness and the trustworthiness of God, truth’s an issue where, beyond any question, Jews and Christians stand against modernists on the one hand and postmodernists on the other.

DOOR: On what other issues could Christians and Jews stand shoulder-to-shoulder?
GUINNESS: One of the current ones is forgiveness and the current discussion of it surrounding the Pope’s efforts in Jerusalem. Many Jews call Christians “forgivers,” as if forgiveness is a matter of cheap grace, and some Christians have turned it into that. But forgiveness is actually a very precious and deeply important thing.

DOOR: So you’re not overlooking the crucial issues over which Christians and Jews disagree.
GUINNESS: No, but I think on many fronts our co-belligerence is incredibly important and that we need to stress the unity where we can.

DOOR: Are Christians and Jews the only two faith groups who can stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the issue of truth?
GUINNESS: Well, certainly the Muslims can too. The three great monotheistic religions--Judaism, the Christian faith, and Islam--all have a high view of truth.

DOOR: The Eastern religions don’t?
GUINNESS: No, because to them the world in which we’re living is the world of illusion. Oddly enough, truth doesn’t have a high place among the Western secularists either.

DOOR: What makes you say that?
GUINNESS: Simply look at, say, the humanist and naturalist understanding of truth in evolution. As they see it, we’re products of time plus matter plus chance. Truth is a handicap because many of the species that have flourished have actually flourished by being deceptive. Evolutionary theory puts a great stress on deceptiveness. And if you look at the philosophical implications of that, it means that evolutionists don’t have a framework for saying why human beings are truth-seekers and why the universe as it is reinforces truth-seeking. That’s an incredibly important philosophical and apologetic point.

DOOR: The focus of the coverage of the Pope’s visit to Israel has been on whether he’ll ask forgiveness for the Church’s posture during World War II and whether or not the Jews will grant it. Isn’t his visit simply the sort of empty gesture that world leaders feel obligated to indulge in from time to time as a matter of international good manners?
GUINNESS: No, no. I think his visit is of world-historic significance. And I’m not Catholic, I’m Anglican. John Paul II has been praised for his extraordinary stand, over many decades, that helped bring down the Soviet Union. But I think his contribution there will pale by comparison with what he’s doing now. In other words, whether it’s our treatment of the Muslims during the Crusades or the Jews during the horror of the Holocaust or whatever, his saying, “Forgive us and we pass on the forgiveness” opens up the possibility of a springtime of evangelism.

DOOR: Are you sure you’re not Catholic?
GUINNESS: In my church--the Episcopal church--we have leadership that is heretical and that couldn’t with any integrity step up to the plate. If they were to, it would be a very hollow exercise in political correctness. But the pope is doing it with extraordinary integrity.

DOOR: There was when Evangelicals would have felt threatened by the notion of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Jews and Muslims and of giving the Pope credit for a springtime of evangelism.
GUINNESS: Some Evangelicals. And it still sounds threatening to some.

DOOR: What could you say to convince them that this co-belligerence to which you refer is not a recipe for compromise?
GUINNESS: There are two biblical principles that the Church has been clear on from time to time. One is, all truth is God’s truth. That means we affirm truth wherever it is although we argue that it’s only finally fulfilled and properly grounded in God, who is the Father of Jesus Christ.

DOOR: What’s the other?
GUINNESS: The other is the principle of co-belligerence. Wilberforce--or, more recently, Francis Schaeffer--used to stress that we are always willing to work with anyone who is strongly opposed to what we’re strongly opposed to. So, if you have feminists who truly oppose pornography, we work with them--as co-belligerents, not as allies. If there’s a group of atheists who are against abortion, we work with them. Wilberforce did that stunningly. He worked with real rogues and rascals to help his reformation of manners, and he succeeded. Now, back to the book--

DOOR: The book?
GUINNESS: Time for Truth. The book’s more than Clinton.

DOOR: Of course. It’s also, um, let’s see--oh, yes, on page nineteen you refer to “the lies of Western society--particularly as they are compounded by the ‘culture cartel’ of postmodern academia, advertising, entertainment, and youth culture.” Do you think that academia has become so postmodern that concerned parents should consider not sending their children to college at all?
GUINNESS: No. I’ve always thought that when you look at Christian colleges and the secular universities, the answer is “both and,” not one or the other. I love Christian colleges like, say, Gordon College in Massachusetts, which is totally faithful yet totally engaged and which has a very stimulating yet Christian climate. On the other hand, it’s when we take on the toughest discussions and the strongest objections from the wildest theorists that we brace up and see freshly the new wonders of the Gospel because, you know, we’d been in a rut. I love the statement of old George Whitfield, the evangelist: “I’m never better than when I’m on the full stretch for God.”

DOOR: Have you ever felt as if you were “on the full stretch for God”?
GUINNESS: Twice. Once was when I went out to India and studied under a guru.

DOOR: That must’ve hurt.

DOOR: Um, you studied under a guru--
GUINNESS: I was really challenged right to the core. My faith grew immeasurably in answering the challenge of Hinduism.

DOOR: What was the other time?
GUINNESS: The other time was when I did my doctorate in the social sciences. I was in the sociology of knowledge, which is one of the most mind-spinning areas of relativism there is. But it was in plunging into it, exploring it, answering it, and countering it, that my faith grew. I’m grateful to the Lord, and will be forever, that I had the privilege of going to Oxford, the very best in Europe. When you survive and prevail in that, well, you know--

DOOR: Actually, we don’t.
GUINNESS: I’m also glad I came to Christ in the sixties.

DOOR: What was so special about the ’60s?
GUINNESS: Because it was a decade in which everything went back to square one, tore up the roots, and challenged the fundamental presuppositions. If you could know what you believed and why you believed and how to answer others in that decade, you could take on anything.

DOOR: Another component of your “culture cartel” is advertising. Isn’t the inherent distortion of truth involved in advertising so obvious that its destructive effects are practically nil?
GUINNESS: Advertising is dangerous for all sorts of reasons. For instance, in America, you have such an omnipresent sell, sell, sell, sell that you’ve erased the line between “for sale” and “not for sale.” Remember the horror of the fact that the Prince of Peace was sold for pieces of silver or Martin Luther’s outrage that grace was being sold for money in the form of indulgences. In America, everything is up for sale, including God.

DOOR: Some people are offended that we charge money for our magazine.
GUINNESS: I’m personally disturbed by how many Christian ministries today have turned things that in other centuries, in other parts of the world, would’ve been seen as pure ministry into money-making operations. I think that’s incredibly dangerous. And I wish someone had done an analysis exposing our false prophets of the Y2K conspiracy.

DOOR: The Christian-speaking circuit seems to have become rather lucrative.
GUINNESS: Absolutely. The money being earned by Christian speakers on these circuits is absolutely phenomenal, in the hundreds of thousands.

DOOR: What do you charge to speak?
GUINNESS: I don’t charge anything.

DOOR: -----
GUINNESS: I just take whatever is appropriate to the group that I’m with.

DOOR: -----
GUINNESS: Sometimes I get three hundred dollars. Sometimes I get one thousand. I just say to them, “My speaking is my ministry. It’s not a money-making thing.”

DOOR: Um, would you mind our sending you the bill for this call?
GUINNESS: I couldn’t make $300,000 a year by speaking to fellow Christians. That, I think, is close to fraud. When people are taking the message from scriptures, the Word of God, and start making fortunes out of it, that, I think, stinks.

DOOR: Has Christian book-selling similarly over-inflated the worth of some authors?
GUINNESS: Absolutely. One publishing house--which I will not name--

DOOR: May we guess?
GUINNESS: --sold what I believe is still the best-selling book in Christian publishing in the last fifteen years even though they knew that the book had heresy in it.

DOOR: May we ask which book?
GUINNESS: Benny Hinn’s Good Morning, Holy Spirit. Yet they published it.

DOOR: That would be Thomas Nelson Publishers.
GUINNESS: And sure enough the book made enormous profits. I thought that was utterly scandalous.

DOOR: Our favorite Benny Hinn book is The Anointing.

DOOR: Um, but you think the Hinn-Nelson entanglement is an exception within Christian publishing?
GUINNESS: Well, the problem with Christian publishing is much wider and deeper than that. One of the simplest problems is the massive dumbing down. Here we are living in a country which has a biblical view of sin that’s very radical--enshrined in its constitution, the separation of powers--yet, if you look at the Christian bookstores, what has happened to the biblical view of sin?

DOOR: What has happened to the biblical view of sin?
GUINNESS: In many cases we’re down to the “hole in the soul” and “low self-esteem.” Christian bookselling often has appalling theology. It’s not just at the level of pablum; it’s heretical pablum and a disgrace before God.

DOOR: Please don’t mince words.
GUINNESS: And most of it must’ve passed through because it’s market driven, not message driven.

DOOR: Some people might say that your criticism is grounded in a particular theological tradition and not in a sensitivity to the fact that other Christians--Charismatics in Benny Hinn’s case--have a different perspective.
GUINNESS: When it comes to truth, I don’t know any tradition in the church of Christ--Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical--which historically doesn’t take truth as fundamentally serious. Not a single one.

DOOR: But a great deal of what you’re referring to as heretical in contemporary-Christian publishing might be perfectly normal theology in one church or another somewhere today.
GUINNESS: I think you’d say that the opening editions of Benny Hinn’s were heretical by any church of Christ. If they’ve gotten to the place where they can’t see that sort of thing as heretical, we’re deeply in trouble. To put it another way, Winston Churchill used to quote Alexander the Great, who said, “The reason the Persians would never be free was they didn’t know how to say the word no.” The church’s strength is not just in its capacity to say “yes” to Jesus but to say to “no” to the world, the flesh, the devil, heresy, and worldliness. And the American church today has virtually lost the capacity to say “no.” So America is awash with “possibility thinking” and “affirmation” and “positive thinking.” If ever the evangelical church cannot say, “This is false, this is heretical, this is worldly”--if we just say, “Well, that’s your tradition”--we’re very deeply in trouble.”

DOOR: You cite in Time for Truth Karl Menninger’s work in tracing the decline of the American view of evil. What was once “sin” eventually became “crime,” what was “crime” eventually became “sickness.”
GUINNESS: Mmm-hmm.

DOOR: Some would say that we, both secular society and the church, have slipped even further, that we’ve redefined “sickness” as “mistakes.”
GUINNESS: Yes. One of the bad moral responses to the Clinton impeachment was this notion, “Mistakes were made.” Another one I notice very commonly now is “Time to move on.”

DOOR: What’s wrong with that one?
GUINNESS: It’s a pseudo-moral answer, an example of just one of the many ways in which Americans have lost the capacity to confront and genuinely resolve moral problems.